92 Years ago: The Battle of Chunuk Bair 7-10 August 1915

Discussions on the final era of the Ottoman Empire, from the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 until the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
Tosun Saral
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Location: Ankara/Turkey

92 Years ago: The Battle of Chunuk Bair 7-10 August 1915

Post by Tosun Saral » 11 Aug 2007 14:05

The Battle of Chunuk Bair 7-10 August 1915

At 8.00 pm on 9 August the New Zealanders finally left Chunuk Bair. In their place stood soldiers of the British 6th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and the 5th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment. The Turks had been highly alarmed by the threat at Chunuk Bair and Suvla to their whole position at Gallipoli. To take charge at Chunuk Bair, the Turkish high command now dispatched Mustafa Kemal. In the evening he rode up to Chunuk Bair where the Turks were faltering under the British naval bombardment and the strong stand of the New Zealanders. Convinced that the time had come for an all-out counter-attack, Kemal ordered his men forward at dawn on 10 August in a bayonet charge:
"The blanket of night had lifted. Now was the hour for the attack. I looked at my watch. It was nearly 4.30 am. After a few minutes it would become quite light and the enemy would be able to see our troops. Should the enemy infantry open fire with his machine guns and should the land and naval guns open fire on our troops in our close packed formation I didn’t doubt the impossibility of the attack .... I greeted the men and addressed them:
‘Soldiers! There is no doubt that we can defeat the enemy opposing us. But don’t you hurry, let me go in front first. When you see the wave of my whip all of you rush forward together!’
Then I went to a point forward of the assault line, and, raising my whip, gave the signal for the assault.
The Turks rushed forward and swept the British from the heights of Chunuk Bair and had regained Chunuk Bair and no British Empire soldier ever again beheld the Dardanelles from that peak.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 11 Aug 2007 14:37

From: http://www.awm.gov.au/events/conference ... /celik.htm

Mustafa Kemal, seeing crises developing behind him, despatched one battalion from the 14th Regiment and two companies from the 72nd Regiment to Chunuk Bair. When the battalion arrived, they reported that the situation was critical. Mustafa Kemal ordered the battalion commander to hold the ground at all costs. Two companies, although weak, held the ridges from Chunuk Bair to Besim Tepe (Hill Q). Two other companies were able to hold the south of Chunuk Bair. These were the first units to block the advance of the New Zealanders. Finally, the 64th and 25th Regiments of the 9th Division arrived to reinforce. The 25th Regiment reinforced the two companies from the 77th Regiment and the 64th Regiment reinforced the two companies from the 14th Regiment on the right. Soon after this, Kannengiesser, commander of the 9th Division, was wounded and replaced by his chief of staff, Hulusi Bey. Chunuk Bair was heavily bombarded and then the New Zealanders attacked again. The Turkish 1/14th Battalion was hard-pressed to repel the attack until the 25th Regiment arrived with new reinforcements. Meanwhile Cemil Conk was appointed as the new commander of the ground. In the evening, the 11th Battalion of 4th Division also arrived to reinforce. Five machine-guns were also brought to Chunuk Bair.

In the north of ANZAC, the 2nd Battalion, 14th Regiment were surprised and scattered. Suffering many losses, they retreated to the slopes of Asma Dere where the 1st Battalion, 32nd Regiment, reinforced them. The Turks checked the Australian advance there.

In the fighting on Chunuk Bair, the commander of the 25th Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Kisiklili Nail and his battalion Commander Vidinli Mehmet Ali were both shot. The men were out of control there.

On the night of 7-8 August, Cemil Conk, the 9th Division commander, was planning a counter-attack to regain Sahin Sirt (Rhododendron Ridge). He spent the night at the 64th Regiment headquarters. Heavy fire was coming from sea and land artillery. Seeing this fire, the commander of the 64th Regiment advised against a counter-attack because it would be very costly under such heavy fire. Following this advice, Cemil Bey agreed.

Today we know that this was a serious mistake. That night, the Wellington Regiment from New Zealand occupied the Turkish trenches by surprise attack. This occurred despite there being 12 Turkish battalions in the area. However, they were mixed up. When the New Zealanders occupied the trenches in the attack, the Turks did not know if they were friend or enemy. One Turkish officer watching the action reported to Mustafa Kemal, "Some men are moving from the seaside along Sahin Sirti to Chunuk Bair and I do not know whether they are enemy or Turks." Later on, the same officer said that they were digging on Chunuk Bair. Mustafa Kemal thought they were enemy troops and worried about the confusion there.

Mustafa Kemal's headquarters overlooked Chunuk Bair. Seeing the crisis, Kemal felt obliged to do something. He despatched his aide-de-camp to Chunuk Bair to report. But the aide was shot on the way. Next, Kemal sent his chief of staff. The chief of staff reported that the situation was critical. In fact, Kemal's headquarters was under fire from Chunuk Bair and some of his men were wounded. When the 10th Regiment arrived as reinforcements, Kemal immediately dispatched them to Chunuk Bair.

Nuri Bey, who was Mustafa Kemal's friend, telephoned and asked about Chunuk Bair, saying, "At the Corps Headquarters they told me to attack on Chunuk Bair but I did not know the ground and asked for details. When I asked for the details, Esad Pasha and his chief of staff said angrily, 'There is no point in talking, just go'. Tell me, who is the commander there?" Answering this question, Mustafa Kemal said, "Go to Chunuk Bair immediately and the time and circumstances will decide who is the commander there."

Obviously there was a leadership problem there. At the beginning, the German officer Kannengiesser was commander but he was shot. His chief of staff took command but he was also shot. Cemil Bey was appointed as the new commander, but when the 8th Division arrived, Ali Riza Bey became the commander. What's more, Sanders appointed another German officer named Potrih as the commander of the 9th Division. This made things even more confusing. Another decision shifted responsibility of Hill 971 to the Suvla Corps. Chunuk Bair was the responsibility of the 3rd Army headquarters. The Turks had moved more men than needed to Chunuk Bair but they lacked coordination and leadership. They were not directed by capable hands.

Once more Mustafa Kemal called the 3rd Army Headquarters at Kemal Yeri and warned them about the critical situation there. He did not know whether the enemy had taken the strategic hill or not, but his officers reported that the enemy was filling sandbags to improve the lines. The men from the 25th and 64th Regiments were about 25-30 metres away from the enemy there. Finally, on 8 August, Mustafa Kemal was called by Sander's chief of staff, Kazim Bey. Kazim Bey asked, on behalf of Sanders, for Mustafa Kemal's opinion on Chunuk Bair. Mustafa Kemal said, "It is very critical and if you do not take the final option, the only remaining one to correct it, it will be disaster." In his opinion the final option was to bring all the available men under one command. "You should combine all the men under one leadership and make me the commander of them." The chief of staff replied, "Isn't it too much?" Mustafa Kemal said, "Even it is less than necessary you will see."

Immediately afterwards, Mustafa Kemal went to Chunuk Bair. He wanted to be there to direct the attack. It would be very important in terms of psychology. When he came to Chunuk Bair, he saw that the highest ridges were a no man's land. Trenches were about thirty yards [30 m] apart, the Turks on one side and the New Zealanders on the other side. But the New Zealanders' fire was not able to hit or sweep the gullies behind the Turkish trenches. Kemal went to the 64th Regiment's headquarters in a gully just behind the ridge of Chunuk Bair. Men from the 24th Regiment were in the trenches on the front line at Chunuk Bair. Just behind them were the men from the 23rd Regiment. The 23rd was the only regiment not used. The 10th, 23rd, and 24th Regiments were from 8th Division under Ali Riza Bey. The 9th Division was also there under Potrih but they were scatted and mixed up other units. Further right, men from the 4th Division were deployed on Abdurrahman Bayiri.

Actually, men from the 4th, 8th and 9th Divisions were mixed up. Only the 23rd Regiment was in good order. Kemal decided to use this regiment in the attack on Chunuk Bair. Another regiment was coming from Seddulbahir (Cape Helles), but Kemal could not be certain they would arrive. They might have become lost in the night. Fortunately, they did arrive. This was the 28th Regiment, despatched by Vehip Pasha to ANZAC. He knew there would be no point in staying in Cape Helles when he was outflanked by the ANZACs and British.

When Mustafa Kemal explained his intention to attack Chunuk Bair to Galip Bey, 8th Division chief of staff, Galip warned against it. "We have been attacking for two days but all the attacks have been futile and there may be another disaster." Logically, Galip Bey was right. But there are ideas that cannot be explained in terms of logic. Mustafa Kemal had made his decision. He thought a surprise attack would succeed.

He ordered Ali Riza Bey to prepare an attack in the night. He put the 23rd Regiment on the right just before Chunuk Bair. The 28th Regiment he placed on the left to attack towards Sahin Sirt. The 28th Regiment squeezed in amongst the 24th and 10th Regiments who were occupying the front-line trenches. The attack would be a bayonet charge unsupported by any bombardment. It would be done in one minute and then Kemal did not know what would happen.

Kemal remembered, "It was early in the morning, on the tenth of August, the dawn was about to break. I was just standing before tent, and I could see all the men. The time was 4.30 am. I was worried about my men waiting in thick infantry lines. If the enemy opened fire on these thick lines, it would be disaster. I immediately ran to the front to greet and inspect the men and said, ' Soldiers! I am sure that you will defeat the enemy, you do not hurry, let me go first, when you see my whip go up, you all go together.' Then they walked with the commanding officers. All the men were in attack position, one step forward, rifles with fixed bayonets, officers with revolvers or swords in hand, tuned in for my signal as a single heart forgot everything but his signal with the utmost care."

When Mustafa Kemal gave the signal, 5,000 men in 22 lines charged on the New Zealanders and the British at Chunuk Bair. One second later there was only one sound - "Allah … Allah … Allah." The British did not have time to fire and all the men in the front-line trenches were bayoneted. The British troops were wildly scattered. In four hours' time, the 23rd and 24th Regiments regained the lines at Chunuk Bair. The 28th Regiment regained Pinnacle (the highest point on Rhododendron Ridge). Just after the Turks regained Chunuk Bair, the Navy and artillery began firing. Hell let loose. Iron rained from the skies over the Turks. Everybody accepted their fate. All around people were killed and wounded. While Mustafa Kemal watched the fighting, a piece of shrapnel hit his pocket watch. The watch was broken but protected his life. He had a bruise on his chest, but nothing else. He was destined to save the country.

At 12.15 pm, he ordered Ali Riza Bey to stop the attack. They had been fighting for about eight hours. In the fighting around Chunuk Bair, 9,000 Turks were killed or wounded. The Turks again held the highest ground. Although the allies had used fifty thousand men, nothing had changed on Gallipoli. It was a terrible waste of human beings. For the Allies, there was no way of gaining their point.

After the August fighting, Mustafa Kemal sent a report to Fifth Army Headquarters. "I think they are done and the British cannot launch another serious attack on Gallipoli."
25 New Zealanders were also captured by the Turks at Chunuk Bair-Hill 60.Supposedly Enver Pasha visited them when they reached Constantinople.

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